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'Small cells' approved to boost mobile broadband speeds near UB

An area just northeast of the University at Buffalo has seen such rapid growth in demand for mobile broadband data that service is at capacity, according to wireless providers.

"With the Sweet Home school, UB, dense residential and commercial there's a lot going on – a lot of people, a lot of usage and a lot of devices," said Peter Franz, an engineer for Verizon. "That's driving the usage in this area."

The company on Tuesday received approvals from the Amherst Zoning Board of Appeals to install four "small cells" in the neighborhood along Sweet Home Road.

Small cells are deployed in "hot spots" where demand for data has reached its limits, Mark Coon, an engineer for Verizon, told the board.

The Verizon representatives told the board that the small cells will take some of the burden off larger "macro cell" towers resulting in better service for customers. The telecommunications industry also sees small cells as necessary to support 5G, the next generation of wireless networks, and new innovations such as driverless cars.

The smalls cells will be in front of 2676 Sweet Home Road, 2446 Sweet Home Road, 3030 Sweet Home Road and 401 Creekside Drive. All the equipment, including the antenna and cabinet, weigh about 400 pounds and are affixed to existing utility poles.

Eight more applications for small cells in the town's Willow Ridge neighborhood near UB were adjourned until feedback from the Sweet Home Central School District is received.

Cuomo would let state, not localities, decide siting of wireless antennas

Meanwhile, the town Planning Board last week held a public hearing on a proposed local law concerning cell towers in public rights-of-way.

A committee drafted the proposed ordinance, which would require the telecommunications companies seeking permission to set up a cell tower to provide more information during the application process and to offer better justification for why a tower of that height needs to go in that specific location.

Town Attorney Stanley J. Sliwa said the town wants more of these small cell antennas, which companies seek to build on existing utility poles, on main thoroughfares away from residential neighborhoods.

The Planning Board heard from residents who support the proposed local law and from industry representatives who said they have concerns about its wording.

The Planning Board ultimately tabled the proposed law to allow for further revisions.

A moratorium on new cell towers in the town had been in effect to allow for study of the issue but it expired March 11.

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